SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) — Orange County health officials Saturday "strongly" encouraged residents to follow preventive measures amid record numbers of pediatric hospitalizations and daily emergency room visits for respiratory infections.

"Orange County is seeing very high numbers respiratory illness, specifically Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) severely impacting capacity in our pediatric hospitals," said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county's health officer and chief medical officer for the Orange County Health Care Agency.

"RSV can severely affect young infants and children and we are encouraging residents to take precautions, especially with groups of children," Chinsio-Kwong added.

Parents are advised to seek medical attention immediately if their child is showing warning signs, which may include having trouble breathing, showing signs of dehydration (i.e., no urine in over eight hours, dark urine, very dry mouth and no tears), has a persistent or high fever, or looks or acts very sick.

Recommended preventive actions include:

  • Do not go to school or work when you are symptomatic
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick, and when you are sick
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands
  • Mask when indoors or large group settings
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before and after eating and using the bathroom

Officials also advised getting both flu and COVID-19 vaccines to prevent complications from these viral illnesses.

Parents and caregivers were urged to keep young children with acute respiratory illnesses out of child care, even if they have tested negative for COVID-19.

RSV infections occur primarily during the fall and winter cold and flu season, causing bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age and placing infants, young children, and older adults with chronic medical conditions at risk for more severe disease.

Annually, RSV leads to approximately 58,000 hospitalizations with 100- 500 deaths among children younger than 5 years old and 177,000 hospitalizations with 14,000 deaths among adults, aged 65 years or older, according to the OCHCA.